Ancient Wine Cellar Discovered in Northern Israel

In northern Israel, a team of archeologists discovered 40 jars of wine in an ancient cellar that dates back to 1700 BCE. The wine cellar is thought to be oldest- and largest- in the world. The team found the cellar in Tel Kabri, a site within the ruins of a northern city called Canaanite. According to the Discovery Channel, its age predates both the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls by hundreds of years.

Towards the beginning of the excavation, the researchers found a three-foot-long jar that they decided to name “Bessie” Eric Cline, chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at George Washington University, said “We dug and dug, and all of a sudden, Bessie’s friends started appearing — five, 10, 15, ultimately 40 jars packed in a 15-by-25-foot storage room.”

The jars had a capacity of about 8453.5 cups (about 2,000 liters), which would add up to the equivalent of almost 3,000 bottles of wine today. However, the jars were broken and contained no wine. Researchers believe that the cellar was destroyed in about 1600 BCE in a “violent event” such as an earthquake.

Without any liquid, how did the scientists know that the jugs had contained wine? Andrew Koh, an assistant professor of classical studies and Brandeis University, analyzed the jar fragments and found traces of tartaric and syringic acids, which are both key ingredients in wine. USA Today reports that he also found other compounds such as honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries, and resins which are all common ingredients used in wines. Koh said that ““We knew when we hit the first jar — we were hoping beyond hope this was something big for us.”

“The wine cellar was located near a hall where banquets took place, a place where the Kabri elite and possibly foreign guests consumed goat meat and wine,” said co-director of the Yasur-Landau, chair of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa. These “recipes” are similar to medicinal wines that were used in ancient Egypt. Koh asserts that ““This wasn’t moonshine that someone was brewing in their basement…This wine’s recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar.

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